Crews douse fire at pet grooming boutique on University Avenue in Hillcrest
Last Updated: 72 days ago
SAN DIEGO - Authorities are searching for a man accused of setting fire to a pet grooming boutique in Hillcrest and then taking off.
The non-injury blaze in the 1200 block of University Avenue erupted about 1:30 p.m. Monday, spreading up a rear wall of the Uptown Pets shop and into its attic, according to the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department.
It took crews less than 10 minutes to extinguish the flames, SDFRD spokesman Maurice Luque said.
Though the portion of the shop is a charred mess, it could have been far worse if not for Bill Norville, who was taking a shortcut home when he says he witnessed an arsonist in action.
"There was a guy on a porch, and I could see cardboard on fire and he's picking up cardboard and putting it on there," said Norville. "I honk my horn and I said, 'You're going to set the building on fire.' He just kind of waved at me and then I saw him flip me off."
Norville immediately called 911 and then tried to reason with the man one more time.
"At first, I thought he was just stupid," said Norville. "I mean, who lights a cardboard fire on top of a wood porch? And then when he puts more wood on it, I'm thinking, 'This isn't right.'"
The boutique has been in Hillcrest for 14 years and sells pet products and grooming services.
No animals were inside at the time, and the one employee made it out safely.
"I'm glad no pets were in that store," Norville said.
Thanks to his quick response, firefighters arrived in minutes and made a fast stop on the fire.
"The fire department in San Diego … I don't care what anyone else thinks of them, I think these guys are bloody heroes," he said.
Both Norville and the shop's owner share the same theory on why the arsonist may have wanted to torch the store.
"They think that maybe it was one of the homeless people around here that they've been rousting out of the neighborhood and they were mad," he said. "And I really feel bad, but it's pretty cool that nobody got hurt."
The fire caused $100,000 in damage to the building and $50,000 in damage to the contents inside.
So far, police have not made any arrests.
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